Want it More – Winner Interviews: Alex Borrill

“Want It More” is a series of post-event chats with the people who wanted it just that little bit more and managed to climb to the top of the field during a given event. We’re asking about impressions, strategies, good (and not so good) plays, and more.

This time we’ve got the winner of both the Reading and Aldershot 2019 Store Championships.

Name (or username): Alex Borrill aka Thorn/MrEhjiwurth
If you had an intro song: What I hear “Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney: Objection Theme”. What my opponent hears “Eggman’s Theme from Sonic Adventure 2”
Events: Reading Store Championship | Aldershot Store Championship
Placement in Swiss: 2nd | 1st
Path to the final: Reading | Aldershot

3N1GM4: Congrats on the wins! How did you find your first NISEI Store Championships?

Alex: It was like putting on an old but comfortable pair of slippers. Granted, the snow made it a pain getting in so said slippers were a tad wet and cold, but it felt good getting back into the store champ scene. Honestly the best part was that it didn’t feel too different from what SC’s were and I’m glad because that’s why I love this game.

3N1GM4: How did you prepare for the events?

Alex: “The cost of preparedness – measured now in gold, later in blood.” – Darkest Dungeon

Sorry, I can’t resist quoting my favourite game of all time. But anyone who knows me knows that I’m about as prepared as a college student on deadline day. I’ve done absolutely nothing and now I’m frantically assembling some form of plan to pass. Normally this would involve me making some contraption of a deck to baffle my opponents. Buuuuut… I got invited to play some Magic Commander online and couldn’t resist (I was playing an Orzhov deck where I threw like 132 Angels at my friends). The games went on way longer than I thought and as I heard the chirping of birds outside I realised I had half an hour to get my train for the Reading SC. So I got zero sleep and brought old decks from Laurie-con. Luckily Swiftie was there and I asked him oh so nicely if he had any more “enjoyable” decks to play. Those decks being the 419 and Argus decks I won with.

Aldershot however was slightly different. The week before me and Swiftie went down to Taunton for a GNK like proper lads do because as everyone knows I’m a true lad. Swiftie was very disappointed I’d decided to play the same “mainstream” decks again as he taunted me for supposedly wearing beige trousers and bet that I paint my walls magnolia. I was having none of that so decided to promptly build a new deck at the local Wetherspoons. A common trademark of mine is building decks in eateries. This was my Dead by Daylight Outfit deck with Broad Daylight as the centerpiece card to murder my opponents with.

3N1GM4: What was the most exciting play (or plays) of the events for you?

Alex: With Argus I think the most fun I had was bluffing out Armed Intimidations as NGO Fronts. Sure, they were behind ice and double advanced, but no one saw the play coming. If the Runner has four or fewer cards in hand it’s a guaranteed kill with High Profile Target. This happened at least three times on the day.

The most enjoyable aspect of the Outfit deck is making the Runner panic and hyperfocus on keeping their hand safe from being blown up by Broad Daylight. They feel super safe with I’ve Had Worse in hand until I smack it away with some good ol’ Salem’s Hospitality then go in for the kill. Getting the combo off so consistently really made my day. Also using my Worlds and Euros medals as Broad Daylight power counters against Swiftie was a very close second memorable moment.

3N1GM4: Do you have any misplays or mistakes from the events that you’d like to share?

Alex: I think there were a lot of times I wasn’t being aggressive enough as 419 or failing to exploit the disgusting effect of Security Nexus and Power Tap every turn. Just running and letting a trace fire with all three Power Taps out nets you six credits for one action (initial trace plus Citadel Sanctuary trace) but I kept forgetting to take advantage of this. I also constantly forgot to trigger 419.

3N1GM4: What was the most fun deck to play against?

Alex: I think the Jesminder deck that DJs into Liza was exhilarating to play against. There aren’t too many Shapers running around atm because in their current state they struggle a lot to keep up with the faster pace of the meta, unlike Criminals and Anarachs who excel at that. This Jesminder deck is good at mitigating plus it’s super hard to kill the Runner with Liza drawing them cards. First of all I had to bluff out a Contract Killer to snipe that pesky DJ. Then actually getting the Broad Daylights scored against a stealth rig required a heavy back and forth glacier match up. Many Bulwarks were rezzed. Eventually I got the kill but damn it was such a long game we only had like ten minutes or so to play out the second game, where luckily time gave me the win with my opponent frantically drawing for their High-Profile Target.

3N1GM4: You did things the hard way in Reading, coming up from the bottom bracket after losing your first game in the cut to your eventual grand final opponent (Pete Cox) – how did this affect your mindset going into the final, knowing you had to beat someone twice after losing to them earlier in the cut?

Alex: To be honest, as much as I’d like to sound all cool and be like “I try not to think about these things and focus on the game at hand and stay in the zone”, anyone who knows me knows I am a nervous wreck in tense situations. I shake and stammer, my heart races insanely fast and I talk even more than usual just to calm myself down. The wonderful effects anxiety and a lack of social skills have on my personality. Looking back, a lot of my successes have been tough battles of having to climb up to the top again and again. Nationals last year was very close to the point where I had to refuse an ID and challenge Mark Mottram, who I rarely win against, for a hope of securing a better spot. At Worlds I started quite weakly and after round 3 I think I had to win like every game I played from then on just to have a chance of getting into Day 2, and then win every game after that to get into the top 16. Maybe I perform better under that pressure. My thinking becomes more fight or flight, I start rationalising wackier plays because at that stage of the game or situation it’s all or nothing for me, and that’s sort of what I live for when playing Netrunner.

3N1GM4: Unfortunately the grand final in Reading was not recorded, but the final of the bottom bracket is available here, courtesy of neoreading grid. Anything you’d do differently if you were playing one more time in this game?

Alex: It’s very hard for me to think of what I’d change, especially against Chris who is a very strong player. Me and him have faced off a lot and the power of his play knows no bounds. 419 against Argus can go either way and luckily I had a really good setup and crippling credit denial. I suppose I need to learn to be more aggressive and assault those centrals more for steals rather than dragging out the game as long as I did, risking the chance of a comeback from my opponent.

3N1GM4: What do you think is the best thing about the meta in this particular format?

Alex: Now this is very difficult for me to comment on – the current meta isn’t the worst but it’s not something I’ve been raving about. Obviously the lack of CTM asset spam is refreshing! I’m happy not to have to worry about it so much, as I prefer Glacier matchups personally. Runner-wise I dislike Anarchs, but in fairness I don’t think they’re broken it’s just not what I prefer to play against, especially because there isn’t much variety in what they do besides whether it’s Apocalypse or not. If I were to choose a positive, I would say that I feel there are some interesting kill decks that are more viable because the power curve of Runners means they are able to set up quickly and devastate a scoring remote, which makes me feel more creative in my ability to murder those naughty naughty agenda-stealers.

3N1GM4: What was the main prize for winning the event and where is it now?

Alex: I won the Regional bye at Reading and a beautiful NISEI mat which is gorgeous! It has made me super stoked that the integrity of the aesthetic of Netrunner will stay as compelling and world-building as possible. The narrative and world of Netrunner is one of the things I love most about this game – it feels so vibrant with every card. I gave my other mat to Swiftie because he does a lot for me and asked for one for himself. He has helped me since the very beginning when I was playing Exile with Underworlds Contacts and Data Folding and Argus with The Board and 1-point agendas. Ahhhh nostalgia feels good.

3N1GM4: What would you consider a good way to get into competitive Netrunner?

Alex: The best part for me, what drives me to continue playing competitively, is my local meta. Having others around me who are also striving to be the best and playing against them, chatting with them about strategies, is honestly what has kept me going. Swiftie, Rotage, Knails, even the people before that when I first started playing like Iain Reid. Having a group of friends and rivals I can rely on makes me want to go to every tournament I can.

3N1GM4: Have you had any notable competitive success in the past? What result(s) are you most proud of?

Alex: Lots of people who I’ve spoken to agreed that 2018 was definitely my year. I came 2nd at Darksphere Regionals and 1st at Bromley Regionals. My very first regional win was so incredible to feel as well. It was a massive day of highs and lows and I was testing a new Wu deck and Gagarin which both performed exceptionally well. At Euros I came 5th after two strenuous days of high-pressure gameplay in Birmingham, which also proved to be my highest result in a European championship. Nationals was an incredible result for me – I came 3rd with those Wu and Gagarin beauties I loved thanks to the sage wisdom of Swiftie, who is an avid Gagarin sympathiser and deckbuilding DJ in my opinion. He is one of the main reasons I have performed so well, and continue to do so, with his advice and reining in of my usual madness. Then came the big one. The eternal highpoint of my career, Magnum Opus. Worlds was not only a big competitive success but a damn unforgettable experience. I worked myself so hard on Day 1 getting low enough to a point in I think round 3 where I had to win every single game from then on. These were some of the most nerve-wracking, yet most exhilarating moments of my life. Being on the razor’s edge of advancing to the next stage, but one slip up could take that all away. It almost did but I managed to just squeak into Day 2, repeat the whole process again and make top 16. Not only that, but I was also the top Weyland player at Worlds, and one of the top Shapers, which was very special to my heart as those were the two factions I played in my very first tournament. I got to play against incredible players, I mean the cream of the crop, and they treated me like one of their own. That in itself is my legacy in this game.

3N1GM4: Do you prefer online or offline events? For what reasons?

Alex: Offline, without a shadow of a doubt. Netrunner, nay all cards games, are a thousand times better in the flesh. Laughing, competing and sharing time with new people or old friends is the beating heart of why I go to events. For someone like me, years ago this wasn’t even close to something I thought I could do. I was diagnosed very early with Aspergers and ADD, and later on in life with clinical depression. The thought of going out frequently, connecting with people and engaging on such a close level was something I thought impossible. This community helped me. It was therapy to be out in good ol’ meatspace getting to know everyone. To be someone people looked forward to seeing because they were wondering what crazy deck I was going to bring next. The true Netrunner experience is facing your opponent with cards in hand, taking that moment to look at them and read them. You can’t bluff or play mind games nearly as effectively online as you can offline.

3N1GM4: You reach the top cut and you get to choose your side: Corp or Runner?

Alex: That’s always such a difficult question. Mostly I base it off performance – which side did better? – and evaluate who my opponent is. There’s some strictly better match-ups I’ll absolutely take in the first round. I don’t try and meta-game the brackets to determine the likeliness of always getting the better matches. I use my trusty gut and go for it with every game. Getting to a cut itself is its own reward. Making it there you have already won so much, so why feel bad if you don’t take 1st place? Enjoy the victory of being the small percent that came out on top.

3N1GM4: What’s your antidote to tilting? What helps you overcome stress when the game goes against you?

Alex: There’s a multitude of ways I calm myself down, especially with the spiking levels of anxiety I get. Anyone that’s seen me in a high-pressure situation knows I shake like crazy. Usually after a game I will take a breather, go outside, get a drink. I also like to talk to people about how games went. Doing a post-mortem on what I did, what went wrong and what I did well. Being able to analyse your errors and not blame the game too much really helps you grow. Of course we’ve all been shafted by some matches. Like playing a six-agenda Gagarin and drawing four of them in your mulligan at Nationals… for example. Against a 419 who Sneakdoors you. Music helps as well to block out the negative thoughts from previous games, not letting the voices of doubt and criticism take over my mood. When I first started playing I used to get a bit salty because I thought I wasn’t growing as a player. That’s natural and honestly it’s hard sometimes not to get salty, but understanding why I feel that way makes it hurt a little less. Yeah my opponent got a stellar start but what was I not doing in order to keep them from speeding ahead? Don’t let losing games that are super one-sided get you down. We all have them.

3N1GM4: Any lucky charms or superstitions about the game itself you’d like to share with us?

Alex: I wouldn’t call it lucky per se, but one way I break the ice with players is by having my “emotion die”. To explain – I have a six-sided die with different faces on it which I roll when i make a play. I’ll roll it before I access a card, for example, and regardless of what it rolls I will rationalise why I feel that way. “I’m sad I stole your Project Beale… because I should have stolen it earlier.” There’s always a reason and it also makes for a hilariously good improv tool.

3N1GM4: Any format or card pool you’d like to see an event for?

Alex: I’ve always been a fan of drafts in games. It definitely changes the pace and deckbuilding dynamics people have when they are limited. Although one of my favourite events was when Johno from neoreading grid did a Terminal Directive-esque tournament, adding start of game conditions. I still remember how hilarious it was when he said that Runners could start the game with one card installed, ignoring all costs, and Rotage was elated to put down his Monolith. Creative casual fun days like that are always a good time for me.

3N1GM4: Any other games or hobbies you’re partaking in on a competitive level?

Alex: It’s not necessarily competitive in the traditional sense, but I have been going to more Arkham Horror: The Card Game events. In fact, by the time this interview is published I’ll have gone to the Arkham in Flames community event in London, which should be a really good time. Taking my jank and using it for the cooperative good in a team feels nice and I’ve really enjoyed exploring another beautifully narrative game – Arkham especially is sold on its story and lore. And, surprisingly, the deckbuilding was deeper than I imagined. That’s the closest I’ve been to competitive besides Netrunner, which was the first game I ever invested heavily into.

3N1GM4: Thank you for answering our questions and all the best in your future tournaments!